February 4, 2016 STATEMENT— LIRS Statement for the Record on "Another Surge of Illegal Immigrants Along the Southwest Border" | LIRS
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February 4, 2016 STATEMENT— LIRS Statement for the Record on “Another Surge of Illegal Immigrants Along the Southwest Border”

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House Judiciary Committee

Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security

February 4, 2016


By Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

and the Women’s Refugee Commission


Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)[1] and the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC)[2] appreciate the opportunity to submit our views for this hearing.  Our organizations have long advocated for the protection of unaccompanied children, refugees, asylum-seekers and trafficking victims, and we believe the response to violence in Central America requires a holistic response that includes attention to improving conditions in the Northern Triangle and ensuring that refugees who are fleeing persecution receive protection in the U.S. and their due process rights are respected.

Children and families seeking protection

Brutal violence and political turmoil in Central America continue to push migrants to seek refuge elsewhere. Although the majority of those fleeing violence seek protection in the United States, other countries bordering the Northern Triangle countries also receive refugees displaced by the violence. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) documented a 1,185% increase in asylum applications in the Central American and Mexican region from 2008 to 2014, though the vast majority fleeing their home countries still head for the United States.[3] Between 2008 and August 2015, Costa Rica alone saw a sixteen-fold increase in asylum requests from the Northern Triangle countries.[4] Request for asylum in Mexico, primarily from Northern Triangle countries, have more than doubled since 2013.[5]

Unaccompanied children and mothers with their children are disproportionately affected by the violence in Central America. As refugees fleeing Central America, they are forced from their home countries to escape worsening violence by armed criminals, gender-based violence, forced gang recruitment, domestic abuse, human trafficking, and political instability. The situations in these countries have not improved over the past year. Violence and turmoil have only increased; local governments are powerless to protect their citizens, especially families and children. The factors emphasize the need for humane protection of migrants:  as refugees, these migrants are fleeing their home countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution.

The strife in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras has not lessened in the past year. Homicide rates for Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are currently all in the top five globally. In 2014, Honduras had more homicides than all 28 countries of the European Union (EU) combined. El Salvador’s 2015 national murder rate reached approximately 103 homicides per 100,000 people which is a higher murder rate than during El Salvador’s decade long civil war.[6] In fact, insecurity in El Salvador is of such concern to the Administration that the Peace Corps recently suspended operations there due to dangerous levels of community violence.[7] A 2015 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that women in particular face a “startling” degree of violence in the Northern Triangle, including rape, assault, extortion, and threats by armed criminal groups.[8] Sixty-four percent of women interviewed for the study cited targeted threats or attacks as one of their primary motivations for leaving their communities. In the last six years, the three countries have also ranked within the world’s top-four countries for rates of femicide, with El Salvador and Honduras again first and second.[9] The State Department recently wrote about Guatemala that “in most killings of women and girls, sexual assault, torture, and mutilation were evident…the conviction rate was only 1 or 2 percent for femicide.”[10]

Victims of violence, extortion, sexual abuse, and death threats rarely find protection from the authorities. In fact, many victims fear the police as much as the criminals. In the Northern Triangle countries, rule of law and law enforcement institutions are weak and corrupted. The majority of police forces are underfunded, plagued by poor leadership, and sometimes complicit in criminal activity.[11] To fill the void criminal gangs have begun to function like quasi-governments exacting taxes on businesses, run social welfare programs to garner loyalty and having its own quasi judicial system designed to control undesirable behavior.[12]
These tragic statistics underscore our obligation under international and national law to ensure individuals fleeing these levels of violence and instability have a meaningful opportunity to access asylum and protection, both in our own country, and by conducting refugee processing in the region.  We support the Administration’s efforts to develop refugee processing to help identify persons in need of international protection before they are forced to leave their home. We want to make sure the existing Central American Minors program and the recently announced adult refugee processing program in the region are successful in protecting the most vulnerable.  These programs must be fully funded to quickly process those in risk and provide relocation and resettlement as quickly as possible. Funding such programs, will also disrupt criminal organizations focused on human smuggling. They must be offered as a compliment to other protection mechanisms including the ability to request protection at our border.

All aid directed to this region must be conditioned on strengthening protection systems to ensure that migrants are able to exercise their rights. Funding on immigration enforcement in Mexico and other countries must include toward training and implementation of meaningful screenings to identify migrants with international protection needs, providing alternatives to detention, and protecting vulnerable migrants.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 Saves Children’s Lives

Given the extreme violence in the region, we believe protections for asylum seekers, trafficking victims, children and other vulnerable migrants are critically important. Our organizations support safeguarding the protections in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) because we believe this bi-partisan legislation helps the U.S. to meet our domestic and international legal obligations towards refugees and asylum-seekers, to protect children from trafficking and to ensure appropriate and humane care that takes into account children’s best interests. Many unaccompanied migrant children who have survived trafficking are afraid to come forward or may not understand that they were victimized and need protective services. They are often unaware of the illegality of the abuse or that laws and services exist to protect them. The TVPRA’s intent was to better identify trafficking survivors, disrupt cross-border trafficking, provide services to children while in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), identify those children in need of protection and safely reunify them with family as they pursue their legal relief claim in immigration court.

When unaccompanied children are first encountered at border, they are processed and then screened for protections under our immigration laws by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Unlike families or adults who express a fear of return, who must be interviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Asylum Division, these children are never screened for a credible fear or other legal relief by USCIS. For unaccompanied children from Mexico, a screening by CBP is their only chance at access to protection. Numerous studies have shown these screenings are inadequate and DHS is not complying with the Congressional mandate. The limited screening by agents who lack the proper training in asylum, trafficking, child welfare, trauma, abuse, and sexual assault means that many children will be returned to dangerous situations.[13] For children from non-contiguous countries, their transfer from CBP to the child welfare agency ORR is a significant child protection measure as it is often the first time a child feels safe enough to reveal the life threatening situations they faced in their home country. This measure is also consistent with state child welfare laws and best practices developed by states to protect children at risk of neglect and abuse. All children, regardless of country of origin, deserve to be adequately screened for protection concerns and treated with compassion and care.

To illustrate the importance of ORR in screening children in safe environment, here are two examples from LIRS:

  • A young girl named Maria was kidnapped by a local gang and raped daily in her home country in Central America. She managed to escape and fled to the United States. Maria did not reveal what had happened to her until she was interviewed in ORR custody by a social worker trained to interview children. CBP custody and processing limitations do not provide an environment in which children like Maria feel safe to divulge what they went through.
  • Jesus, a 3 year old boy, was sent by his family to the U.S. for his safety after his family had received threats of harm against Jesus. Jesus’s family in his home country had witnessed the torture and beheading of another toddler in their community by gangs as a punishment for not cooperating. Children like Jesus arriving alone at a CBP station would be unable to express the fear of persecution without ORR reaching out to family to discover the reason for his flight.

The TVPRA also provides for minimum due process protections for unaccompanied children. Unaccompanied children may be eligible for various forms of immigration relief, including asylum or Special Immigrant Juvenile status. Recognizing the special vulnerabilities of children and the immense difficulty of arguing an asylum case in immigration court, the TVPRA also directed that any unaccompanied child identified as seeking asylum have their case transferred to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Asylum Division in order to first present their asylum case to specially trained adjudicators in a non-adversarial setting.[14] In the last year, only a fraction of unaccompanied children have applied for asylum, and many of those cases are still pending before USCIS. Lower asylum rates, may be an indicator of the continued lack of legal representation among unaccompanied children.

Despite key child protections in the TVPRA, there is still no legislation to require children have access to legal representation at government expense. Because of this lack of due process protection, children of all ages—even toddlers are put in the unconscionable position of arguing a case for immigration relief. In the last six months of 2014, 94 percent of those unaccompanied ordered removed did not have an attorney.[15] This illustrates how impossible it is for a child to secure relief without representation. In 2014, at the height of the influx, the representation rates reached all-time lows of only 15 percent of children represented in April. In 2015 the current rate of representation is still at a low of 38 percent of children. This failure in access to due process only increases court inefficiencies as documented by the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) and the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ).[16]

Even with low representation rates among unaccompanied children, they still appear to their immigration hearings at high rates: 90 percent in Fiscal Year 2015. With representation the number is well over 99 percent appearance rate for Fiscal Year 2015.

Children Reunified with Family and In Removal Proceedings

CBP aims to transfer children to ORR within 24 hours in order to free their resources to focus on other law enforcement priorities. The children are then placed in ORR placements according to their level of risk and protection need: secure juvenile detention facilities, medium secure facilities, shelters and foster care for children of tender age or pregnant girls. Of the children placed, roughly about 85 percent are reunified with their families for the duration of their removal hearings. This safeguards the child’s rights to family unity and prevents long-term family separation.

Upon release from ORR, some children receive home studies and post-release services for the duration of their court case, limited post-release services, release with a safety plan, or just straight release. Evidenced-based research shows that children who receive case-management style post-release services are more likely to comply with the requirement to appear at all immigration court hearings.[17] Through post-release services children benefit from additional information about what to expect in immigration court proceedings, as well as referrals for local legal service providers. In addition to legal orientation, post-release services also help connect children to schools, mental health services, medical providers, and other supports, as well as provide cultural orientation to both the child and the parent.

Currently only a small percentage of unaccompanied children receive home studies or post-release social services. In FY2014, ORR did home studies for 1,434 children, 2.5% of those placed with sponsors, and provided post-release services to 3,989 children, about 7% of the total children placed.[18] According to the recent Majority and Minority report from the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, ORR performed home studies in less than 4.3% of cases from 2013 through 2015.[19]

The following case example illustrates how these services assist children:

  • Maricel a 15 year old female minor was reunified with her sister in January 2014. The minor left her home country to escape ongoing community violence. While in home country, Maricel was kidnapped and raped by a local gang. In order to find protection and safety she traveled with her older sister to the US. During the journey, Maricel and her sister were taken by unknown persons and held for three (3) days. Her sponsor paid $200.00 US and the minor was released. When she was finally reunified with her older sister in Maryland she notified her local worker that she was 7 months pregnant. The local worker connected her with medical and mental health resources and got her involved in a prenatal care program in her local community. Maricel responded well to the resources and gave birth to a healthy young daughter. With the assistance of her sponsor, she has grown into an engaged and loving mother. Her sponsor is assisting with financial resources while the minor continues her education. In addition, Maricel has been very active securing a lawyer and working on her asylum case. Her lawyer indicated that she has a strong claim for legal relief and they are hopeful she will find the safety and protection she has been seeking in the near future.
  • In the case of a young girl named Maria, recent improvements by ORR such as their creation of a new hotline, are leading to increased protections for children. In Maria’s community in El Salvador, a gang member put a gun near Maria’s head and shot once, she stated that he told her, “I give you one month for you to leave or I will kill or rape you.” She was not harmed when the gun was shot. Gang members then attempted to rape her, but stopped because her screams were so loud. They instead cut her and warned her they would rape her. At 17 years, she fled to the U.S. and was reunified with a sister without any post-release services. However, her sister decided to move in with her boyfriend. Maria called the new ORR hotline, explained that she had lived on her brother’s couch but had moved out. She also was working in order to pay rent. ORR contacted LIRS Post Release Services and a report was made to CPS, Maria was placed in CPS custody and placed into foster care.

We believe, that ORR can and should strengthen its family reunification procedures in order to ensure a child’s access to family unity and protection. ORR has the expertise and knowledge to implement better family reunification procedures and Congress should support these efforts by adequately funding ORR so that every child is protected.

We believe ORR can further improve its processes related to the release of UACs to sponsors:

  1. Responsibility for the care and custody of unaccompanied children should remain with the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency whose mission is child protection. Care and custody should not be transferred to DHS, the agency tasked with immigration and border enforcement.For good reason, Congress decided, through the Homeland Security Act of 2002, that the agency charged with enforcement, the former INS (now DHS) should not also have responsibility for the care and custody of unaccompanied children.
  1. ORR should be provided the resources necessary to ensure child safety and well-being in family reunification decisions. As with other HHS programs, Congress has the authority to mandate reporting, and in this instance, Congress should require vigorous reporting on sponsor screening. Children should be released from ORR custody to sponsors who have been thoroughly screened—and in particular, to parents, who are vested with certain rights and responsibilities. Screening shall include a FBI Criminal background check and Child Abuse and Neglect check on all sponsors, and review of results of those checks, prior to release of a child.  Screening shall also include, at minimum, one in-home visit to assess the safety and suitability of the sponsor and the placement prior to release of the child.  ORR has the infrastructure and the capacity to ensure the safety and well-being of children released to sponsors, and such services should be expanded. ORR must not require subcontractors to complete reunifications within unreasonable deadlines.  The current deadline of 10 days is sufficient for many sponsors if Child Abuse and Neglect checks and FBI background checks are received prior to the Home Study worker making a final recommendation.  ORR must be flexible with extensions in situations where potential red flags are identified during home study requiring further assessment and/or if the FBI background checks and Child Abuse and Neglect check results have not been received within the deadline
  1. ORR should be provided the resources to provide some type of post-release services to all children reunified with a sponsor, which should include at least one home visit per child. These. ORR has a variety of post-release programs that successfully ensure children’s safety and also ensure children comply with the requirements of the immigration court process.  Specifically, ORR contracts with non-governmental agencies to provide post-release follow-up services, legal representation and child advocates for vulnerable unaccompanied children. Provision of these services should be based on an individualized assessment intervention. The services should be community-based, case management services which are trauma informed permitting for a more flexible and tiered approach based on the child and family’s needs. Congress should appropriate the necessary funds so that ORR can provide these services and should require HHS to report on the post-release services provided to individual children and families.
  1. Children must be provided legal representation regardless of whether they have been identified as eligible for relief during an initial screening. At present, upon release from ORR custody, the majority of unaccompanied children appear in immigration court without representation. While the child is unrepresented, the government is represented by an attorney who has been trained specifically in the complexities of U.S. immigration law. A child who does not have an attorney may be fearful of going to court, walking into the courtroom, figuring out what to say—especially in an adversarial setting. Children who are represented are more likely to appear in immigration court, allowing another opportunity for adults other than the sponsor—attorneys, Child Advocates and immigration judges—to interact with a child and verify their safety.
  1. The most vulnerable children should be appointed a Child Advocate to advocate for the child’s best interests on issues including placement and permanency. Federal law permits the appointment of independent child advocates—best interests guardians ad litem—for child trafficking victims and other vulnerable unaccompanied children. Because ORR must consider the best interests of the child when making decisions regarding placement, and because every decision-maker should consider a child’s best interests when making a decision regarding a child, Child Advocates play a critical role. For over a decade, immigration judges, immigration officers and other federal and state officials have relied upon reports received from independent Child Advocates in order to consider children’s best interests in part of the decision-making process—whether that decision involves release to a sponsor or the grant of a discretionary immigration benefit. It is important that Congress continue to provide resources to ensure that the most vulnerable children have a Child Advocate, whether those children are identified as particularly vulnerable while still in custody or after their placement with a sponsor.
  1. ORR should revise the sponsor assessment tool and sponsor reunification packet to ensure gathering of relevant information including a sponsor needs-assessment and orientation for all sponsors. ORR should conduct an in-person risk assessment of all category 2 and 3 sponsors. All sponsors should receive a user-friendly sponsor handbook that promotes children’s safety, stability, and well-being.
  2. ORR should implement a uniformed approach rather than a multi-faceted, tiered approach based on the sponsor category or subjective view of each case manager. With consistent background checks for all sponsors, ORR will then be able to monitor outcomes and assess the best evidence-based approach for screening of sponsors. Such information should inform ORR policy on other screening, i.e. in-person risk assessments and home studies.
  1. ORR should consult with and utilize the expertise of NGOs, state child welfare experts and stakeholders in revising and implementing policies with respect to assessing sponsors, check-ins and providing follow-up services.
  1. Congress and HHS should provide resources for a nationalized child abuse and neglect database system for Child Abuse and Neglect checks so that long waits for multi-state checks do not mean children are waiting reunification for extended periods of time. This also will enable checks in states the sponsor previously resided, but have not disclosed.
  1. Congress should provide ORR with funds for family reunification servicesand other post-release services so that in times of higher arrivals of unaccompanied children or refugees, ORR can adequately provide the bed space and associated supportive services required. ORR should also submit a budget request that is not based on the assumption that only 10% of children should receive home studies and post-release services, instead it should be a needs-based funding assessment. For contingency funds requests, ORR should also plan for the full continuum of additional services need with higher arrival rates


Detention, Due Process, and the Right to Seek Asylum

Although the crisis facing the Northern Triangle is a regional one that requires regional solutions, the displacement of thousands of children and families from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala has also resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of adults and families crossing the southern U.S. border seeking protection. Many have portrayed this influx as a border security crisis or problem, calling for stronger measures to apprehend, detain, and deport those seeking protection at our southern border, and to implement measures to deter their migration altogether. This characterization is fundamentally misguided. It is not illegal to exercise the right to seek asylum at a U.S. border or to a U.S. border official; instead, it triggers a process intentionally created to ensure that the United States would uphold its international and domestic obligations to protect those fleeing persecution or future harm. The United States has long been a global leader on asylum and refugee protection; ensuring that those seeking protection have access to a fair and just asylum process, including for those apprehended at our southern border, is a cornerstone of that leadership.

Rather than rolling back protections that ensure that asylum-seeking adults, families, and children are not returned to harm, the Obama Administration and Congress should take several steps to strengthen protection mechanisms and ensure access to justice for these vulnerable populations.

Many of those currently apprehended at the U.S. border are ultimately subject to “expedited removal” laws and detained in punitive and prison-like facilities with inadequate and traumatizing conditions and that inhibit access to critical legal information and counsel. While in detention, they are subject to an initial screening interview, known as a Credible Fear Interview, and, if fear is established, placed into removal proceedings before an immigration judge. Many asylum seekers are detained for the duration of their proceedings despite eligibility for parole, bond, release on recognizance, or an alternative to detention program (ATD).

In 2014, in response to an influx of children and families fleeing violence and seeking protection at the southern border, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) opened the Karnes and Dilley Family Residential Centers in Karnes City and Dilley, TX, respectively. Statistics show that nearly 90% of those in family detention passed credible fear interviews, indicating that the vast majority of detained families have protection concerns. Yet family detention – like detention generally – traumatizes asylum seekers and creates enormous obstacles to legal relief. Countless studies and reports have documented the devastating impact detention in a family detention facility has on the mental and physical health of the mothers and children detained there.[20] Family detention and immigration detention, in general, have also resulted in serious gaps in access to counsel and due process. One study documented that whether an individual had counsel in court was “the single most important factor affecting the outcome” of an asylum case.[21] Family detention centers, and countless of the more than 200 immigration detention centers, are generally located in remote areas that are several hours away from the nearest cities, rendering it difficult to find low-cost or pro bono legal representation that are crucial to understanding the credible fear process, arguing for bond before ICE or an immigration judge, or preparing and presenting a full asylum case in an adversarial process. Two federal courts have already curtailed the Administration’s family detention policies, finding that the government cannot detain asylum-seekers for the purpose to deter other asylum-seekers from fleeing their countries, and that the Administration’s policies are in serious violation of the longstanding Flores Settlement Agreement that directs certain U.S. practices relating to the custody of migrant children.

The continued use of family detention is especially inappropriate given that, where needed, families could be released to sponsors or placed into far more cost-effective alternatives to detention. ICE recently launched a new family case management program through which families will receive access to social services, much-needed case management, and access to critical legal services. While this contract was unfortunately awarded to a for-profit private prison contractor, rather than to the non-profit service providers with direct experience in immigrant and refugee case management, it represents an important step forward towards holistic and comprehensive services for those immigrants who most need it. Alternatives to detention cost as little as just over $5 per day compared to the $343 for just a single space for one family member in a family detention facility. Yet, instead of a meaningful individualized custody assessment of whether a child or family member would pose a flight or public safety risk, and of a determination whether any ATD or other measures could mitigate those risks, many families and other asylum seekers are arbitrarily sent to detention facilities. Indeed, even alternatives to detention are used by ICE in addition to detention, not in place of or as a true alternative to detention.

Despite the extensive evidence of the harm inflicted by family detention and the persisting due process and rights violations of the mothers and children detained there, hundreds of families continue to be detained in costly and inhumane circumstances. We urge Congress and the Administration to take the following steps:

  • Continue to urge for an end to family detention, and invest in Alternatives to Detention in place of detention. In particular, Congress should turn to community based-alternatives to detention, and ensure that ATDs are used instead of, not in addition to, immigration detention.
  • Rather than placing families in expedited removal, families should be released to sponsors, on their own recognizance, bond, parole, or into an ATD program. Families should receive meaningful explanations of their rights and obligations in a language they understand prior to release. These steps help to increase access to counsel and the ability to navigate an asylum claim.
  • Congress should continue to fund Legal Orientation Program (LOP) presentations and fund efforts to facilitate access to counsel for families and other vulnerable populations. Asylum or other legal relief is often impossible to obtain without the assistance of competent legal counsel to help navigate claims.

We are also deeply concerned about the Administration’s recent enforcement actions against families and children. On January 2, 2016, ICE began conducting residential immigration raids in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia and ICE has arrested 121 individuals during these raids to date, including 71 children and 50 adults, mostly mothers.[22] Attorneys have filed 12 stays of removal– all of which have been granted — on behalf of 33 individuals who faced imminent deportation.[23] The stays were granted in part to allow families to raise ineffective assistance of counsel claims.

ICE used extremely aggressive tactics as well as false information in conducting home raids and conducted these raids has included intimidation, use of excessive force and potential legal violations.[24] Less than half of the families who were subjected to raids were represented by counsel[25] and most were subjected to expedited removal and expedited hearings. Nine of the twelve families who received the stays were arrested in the Atlanta area, where the immigration court has a substantially lower rate of approval of asylum cases compared to all courts nationwide.[26] Given that mothers with children who appear with counsel are 14 times more likely to win their cases than those without counsel,[27] many of these families were not given a fair chance to have a judge hear their claim for relief. We urge the Administration to suspend enforcement tactics that do not provide due process for families and protect them from return to persecution.


In conclusion, we hope that the Subcommittee will recognize the complex situation at our southern border and recognize that it is a domestic legal right to seek asylum when fleeing persecution. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 is a vital tool to protect children, as are our asylum laws and processes. We hope that you will work to protect families and children fleeing violence and seeking safe haven in the United States.



[1] Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is the national organization established by Lutheran churches in the United States to serve uprooted people. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations, and for providing services to migrants through over 60 grassroots legal and social service partners across the United States.

[2] The Women’s Refugee Commission’s mission is to improve the lives and protect the rights of women, children and youth displaced by conflict and crisis. We research their needs, identify solutions and advocate for programs and policies to strengthen their resilience and drive change in humanitarian practice.

[3] UNHCR, Children on the Run, http://unhcrwashington.org/children.

[4] http://www.nacion.com/sucesos/seguridad/Violencia-lanza-salvadorenos-buscar-refugio_0_1533846604.html

[5] http://www.comar.gob.mx/es/COMAR/Estadisticas_COMAR

[6] Washington Office on Latin America, http://www.wola.org/commentary/five_facts_about_migration_from_central_america_s_northern_triangle

[7] Peace Corps, http://www.peacecorps.gov/media/forpress/press/2618/

[8] UNHCR, Women on the Run, http://www.unhcr.org/5630f24c6.html

[9] UN Women http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2013/4/femicide-in-latin-america

[10] Department of State 2014 Human Rights Report Guatemala, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper

[11] Washington Office on Latin America, http://www.wola.org/commentary/five_facts_about_migration_from_central_america_s_northern_triangle

[12] Douglas Farah, Foreign Policy Magazine, Central American Gangs are all Grown Up, January 19, 2016.

[13] See e.g. Confidential Report UNHCR Regional Office Washington, D.C. for the United States and Caribbean, “ Findings and Recommendations Relating to the 2012-2013 Missions to Monitor the Protection Screening of Mexican Unaccompanied Children Along the U.S.-Mexico Border (June 2014). See also Betsy Cavendish & Maru Cortazar, Children at the Border: The Screening, Protection and Repatriation of Unaccompanied Mexican Minors, Appleseed (2011) (“Children at the Border”).

[14] This is the same setting as adults or children submitting affirmative asylum applications from within the United States. Like those who apply affirmatively, when those who are not in status in the U.S. are denied asylum by a USCIS adjudicator, they are referred to the immigration court for removal proceedings, where they may present an asylum claim as a defense from removal.

[15] See Rogers, David. “Child migrants without lawyers pay a high price.” Politico. April 27, 2015.

[16] See e.g., NAIJ Letter to Senate Committee Staff, “Special Concerns Relating to Juveniles in Immigration Courts,” (July 22, 2014).

[17] Benjamin J. Roth and Breanne L. Grace, “Post-Release: Study Summary and Policy Recommendations,” University of South Carolina College of Social Work, available at: http://bit.ly/1cpMtvZ

[18] Molly Hennessy-Fiske, “Young immigrants placed in sponsor homes are at risk of abuse, experts say,” (LA Times August 2015), available at: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-immigrant-sponsors-20150818-story.html

[19] “Protecting Unaccompanied Alien Children from Trafficking and Other Abuses: The Role of ORR,” available at: http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/download/majority-and-minority-staff-report_-protecting-unaccompanied-alien-children-from-trafficking-and-other-abuses-the-role-of-the-office-of-refugee-resettlement

[20] See Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and Women’s Refugee Commission, “Locking Up Family Values Again,” October 2014; Letter from the American Academy of Pediatrics to DHS Secretary DHS Jeh Johnson, July 24, 2015; Allen S. Keller, M.D. and Amanda K. Winchester, M.P.H., “Health Impact of Family Immigration Detention: A Case Study,” NYU Center for Health and Human Rights, October 2015, and see a Complaint to the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) on behalf of the women by the American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Immigrant Justice Corps, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and the Women’s Refugee Commission.


[21] Disparities in Asylum Adjudication, by Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Andrew I. Schoenholtz and Philip G. Schrag, 60 STANFORD L. REV. 295 (2007).

[22] National Immigration Law Center, Fact Sheet on Family Raids, January 14, 2016.

[23] National Immigration Law Center Fact Sheet on Family Raids citing “Three families pulled off El Salvador-bound plane amid deportation appeals,” San Antonio Express News, January 7, 2016

[24] Id.

[25] “Ensuring Due Process Protections for Central American Refugees,” by Philip Wolgin, Center for American Progress, February 2, 2016.

[26] Syracuse University TRAC, Report on Judge-by-Judge Asylum Decisions, FY 2009-2014. http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/361/include/denialrates.html

[27] Syracuse University TRAC, “Representation Makes Fourteen-Fold Difference in Outcome: Immigration Court Women with Children Cases,” July 15, 2015.

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